Bernard O’Donoghue

Bernard O’Donoghue teaches medieval English at Wadham College, Oxford. His latest book of poems is Outliving.

Two Poems

Bernard O’Donoghue, 22 March 2007

Lady’s Smock

Past the odour-of-sanctity primroses in their tight nests of wrinkle-green by the well, and the violets, hardly daring to breathe, on the ditch above them. On to the wet fields and the wiry filigree below the girl’s-dress mauve elegance of this flower, rooted amid rush-spires, just come out at the start of a new season.

Farmers Cross

My mother took to farming like a...

Poem: ‘Bona Fide Travellers’

Bernard O’Donoghue, 4 December 2003

For Eileen

It meant you had to be from somewhere else To get a drink. But that was all right for us; We always were, whether travelling west Or east. The trouble came when, dozing On the boat, you half came round and saw The seabirds bathing, the gannet plunging Towards his bath, and battalions Of unknown children, speaking in accents Different from their parents’. Your book Has fallen...

Poem: ‘Femmer’

Bernard O’Donoghue, 2 January 1997

For Eugene O’Connell

Despite its soft ephemerality, They say the growth of elder is a sign Of age-long human habitation. Under the elders in our decaying farmyard Stands the last sugán chair, rotted at all Its skilfully carved joints, so the lightest Tenant would cause it to collapse.

There’s one like it in the dying house Of Padraig O’Keeffe at Glounthane Cross: Not...

Poem: ‘The Iron Age Boat at Caumatruish’

Bernard O’Donoghue, 8 June 1995

If you doubt, you can put your fingers In the holes where the oar-pegs went. If you doubt still, look past its deep mooring To the mountains that enfold the corrie’s Waterfall of lace through which, they say, You can see out but not in. If you doubt that, hear the falcon Crying down from Gneeves Bog Cut from the mountain-top. And if you doubt After all these witnesses, no boat Dredged...



8 March 2007

I was very honoured and gratified (as I am sure Simon Armitage was) by Frank Kermode’s review of the translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (LRB, 8 March). But one adverbial gremlin infected the quotation from my introduction about the rules of alliteration: I don’t say that the first half line ‘originally’ contained three main stresses, which would be entirely wrong, but that it ‘occasionally’...

It must feel odd – and more than a bit unsettling – to realise that sooner or later, perhaps in your lifetime, somebody will write your biography. Biographers can get lives badly...

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The survival of poetry, especially if written before the invention of print, has often been a matter of luck or accident. Consigned to caves in the deserts of the Middle East, it might be...

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